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Business Student Acting Up Again

Joseph Sullivan ’16 Lands Lead Role in Liberty Mutual Music Video

UMass Lowell Image
Joseph Sullivan ’16 puts his improv skills to the test as he makes a presentation at Liberty Mutual during his music video performance.

By Ed Brennen

The job interview was a train wreck the moment Joseph Sullivan stepped from the elevator at Liberty Mutual’s Boston headquarters.

He wasn’t wearing a tie, let alone a dress shirt. His résumé was stuffed in his back pocket. He rolled his eyes at questions and casually checked his iPhone. He even put his feet up on the conference room table.

Fortunately for Sullivan, a junior in the Manning School of Business, the nightmare interview wasn’t real. It was all part of his acting performance in a light-hearted rap music video produced by the insurance company to provide practical job interview tips to college students.

Sullivan stumbled across Liberty Mutual’s ad looking for students to appear in the “Rockstar Interview” video last summer. The gig was not only a unique way to get his foot in the door at a major corporation, it also dovetailed nicely with the Medford native’s extracurricular interests in music and acting.

“I just took a shot,” says Sullivan, who submitted his résumé and headshot and was promptly invited to audition at Boston Casting in Allston. “Confidence is key, as it is with many things. I went in confident.”

Though Sullivan has no formal training as an actor, it was his second successful casting call in less than six months. Last April, he was picked to be an extra in “Black Mass,” the Whitey Bulger biopic starring Johnny Depp. Sullivan was in costume and on set at the Lancaster Garage across from North Station, only to have the director nix the scene.

He wouldn’t end up on the cutting room floor with the Liberty Mutual video, though.

“Originally they were going to have me be one of the rappers,” says Sullivan, a former member of the UMass Lowell gospel choir and an accomplished cello player. “But when I got the call, the director had already picked the singers. He looked at my résumé and he liked the [audition] performance, so he wanted me to be the main college student protagonist. I’m in the video just as much, so that was a blessing.”

The video took three days to shoot early last August, although Sullivan only had to be on set for two of those days — one at Bentley University and the other at Liberty Mutual.

Sullivan had recently completed his first full-time internship at Signiant, a file transfer software company based in Burlington. He says that experience served him well when it came time to improvise his way through a presentation in the video.

“They had me present off the top of my head in front of Liberty Mutual employees on the investment floor,” says Sullivan, who gained a newfound appreciation for the acting craft. “We’d shoot a scene several times and I’d think, ‘OK, I did fine that time.’ And they’d say, ‘We want a little bit more of this.’ … It’s really little things that you might not be mindful of.”

“I’m happy with the way it turned out. I think the way they presented it, it’s catchy but you can also learn some stuff,” he adds. “And the director told my mom he was really happy with the performance, so that was nice to hear.”
Sullivan, who is studying international business, speaks fluent Russian thanks to his mother, Elena, a Tajikistan native raised in Russia. He is studying abroad this semester at University College Dublin in Ireland, where he has roots on his father Richard’s side of the family.

Also a member of the Dean’s Student Leadership Council and Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence and Success (M.A.L.E.S.), Sullivan says he appreciates the wealth of opportunities he has at UMass Lowell, which he chose in part for its “down-to-earth environment.”

“Down to earth” is also how you could describe Sullivan’s philosophy on a future acting career.
“I don’t see myself pursuing it full-time because I would be naive to bank on that,” he says. “But it is something that I enjoy, and if it’s something that fit in with my schedule and something that I felt comfortable with, I’d consider it.”

For now you can catch Sullivan on YouTube, rolling his eyes during his job interview and moonwalking his way across the Liberty Mutual investment floor.

“I suggested that part,” Sullivan says with a hint of pride about the dance move. “The director liked it so he put it in.”